New York Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux will get to keep his college jersey number in the NFL, but it cost him a big chunk of change. In order to wear No. 5 in 2022, the former Oregon defensive end agreed to pay $50,000 to kicker Graham Gano, who wore the number this past season.
The pair then agreed that the money would go to a charity of Gano’s choice. The kicker chose to donate to Puppies Behind Bars, which provides service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, in addition to explosive-detection canines for law enforcement.
Although jersey number clearly meant a lot more to Kayvon Thibodeaux, Gano is still a bit sad about having to part with it. The 13-year NFL veteran wore No. 9 for seven years with the Carolina Panthers, but switched to No. 5 in the 2021 season as a tribute to his five children. However, given the fact that he got to help a good cause with the money, he believes he did the right thing.
“When he said he was willing to give to that, I can be No. 9 and maybe in 10-15 years when he retires and I’m still kicking, I can get No. 5 back,” joked the 35-year-old Gano. “The opportunity to give to something is exciting, and the number is obviously very special to Kayvon. While it is special to me as well, there’s a whole lot of meaning in that No. 5 to him. I just wanted to be a good teammate and also be able to support others throughout the whole process.”
Gano has family ties to the military, as his father served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years, and he has numerous other siblings and relatives in the military. That made it easy for him to pick Puppies Behind Bars as his charity because of the help it would provide to wounded veterans. He also found a clever way to incorporate the jersey number into Thibodeaux’s donation.
“I feel like it was where the money that Kayvon was donating would be able to make the largest impact and help the most people throughout him giving that money,” Gano said. “The whole idea behind the number five being special to myself and being special to Kayvon was being able to help five people get the five dogs and be able to make an impact in five people’s lives for the better. That was the whole goal behind that. I’m really excited about it.”
Thibodeaux is set to make an estimated $31.3 million over the next four years of his rookie contract after being taken fifth overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. That includes a projected $19.9 million signing bonus, so he should have plenty of money left over even after paying Gano for No. 5.